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Tortoise Rattle, Turtle Rattle or Kanyahte'ka'nowa

The tortoise rattle is a traditional instrument of the Ojibway people of Central Canada. It is an instrument used in traditional ceremonies and is occasionally found in dances of other Native Peoples of Canada. There are a number of stories around this instrument, mostly unverified. The most interesting of these is that the rattle traditionally contained the beaks of one hundred birds, and when played, the player could make a wish and their wish would travel on the souls of the birds to come true.

The rattle is made from the body of the tortoise, complete with neck and head which from the handle. The underside of the rattle is the sown belly of the tortoise. These rattles are becoming increasingly rare, and once were quite large, with shells spanning over one foot (approx. 33 cm.) in length. Now instruments of less than half that size are more common.

Country: Canada
Region: North America
Type: percussion
Toroise Rattle of the Ojibway
©  R. Raine-Reusch, May 2002